Mak was born into a financially challenged family resided in Kampong Cham province, Cambodia. He is the eldest son of the family with a younger brother. His father passed away in 2003 due to an-old-age-related disease, so all the burdens have been put on his mother’s shoulder.
“My father was an educated person of the old generation. He could speak French fluently and some English.” Mak continues, “Because my father was a strict person, we [Mak and his brother] were well-disciplined in the community and hard-working in striving for education.”
Mak’s mother, already in the age of 70 years old, still makes a living by selling Khmer Noodle to support the study of Mak’s younger brother who is pursuing his study for university degree in Tourism in Phnom Penh. “Our relatives and neighbors asked my mother why she didn’t let her children drop out of school and help earning money,” Mak recalls, “but she, without hesitation, refused and claimed that she would never do that.”
With endless encouragement from family and self-determination, Mak has made so many remarkable achievements in his study. In 2002, in grade nine, he passed the national selection examination, and became the national outstanding student with silver medal in the subject of Khmer-literature. In 2005, when in grade twelve, Mak again successfully got the same title as national outstanding student. After that, he was granted a scholarship from Royal University of Phnom Penh in the major of Khmer Literature. Mak says, “Many people asked me why I study Khmer literature, for I am Khmer already.” He clears the doubt by saying, “I find Khmer language unique, and I understand it in dept. There are more than just what the eyes can catch.”
Due to the financial constraint, Mak decided to apply for scholarship at National University of Laos, and was successfully accepted in 2007. In Mak’s academic life, there is nothing called ‘challenge’ but the limited financial resource of his family. He regrets, “if my family could afford my study, I wouldn’t have abandoned my favorite major and taken a new one which required me to start from such a ground level.”
In Mak’s life, though his hard work doesn’t secure a sustainable success, his burning passion for Khmer literature never dies out. Despite completing a degree in Lao Literature nowadays, Mak still continues living up to his dream, becoming an author. He started writing his dairy in the age of nine without any prior awareness that this would mean something for his future career.
Society, generally saying, is where a new talent can be displayed; however Mak never had an easy way to get his books published. Wandering from store to store without a slightest idea of how much his work should be, he said he had thought to himself that ‘Although they give only 2000 riel, I would definitely sell it.’ Until 2005, he got his first novel ‘Death in Aranh’ published by Angkor bookstore. In 2007, he also started to publish his short stories and novels on his blog.
Not different from other authors, Mak always brings variety to his taste of writing novel. He says, “I can write any genres from social issue, love and romance, investigation to ghost story.” He personally is more interested in writing ghost story. “Not because I want to scare people,” He explains, “I consider my talent in writing ghost story as a pointer that can shoot three birds at the same time: the ability to set readers on any kind of emotion he wants them to feel, the knowledge readers can interpret, and the morality that can be dug up from the story.”
What does it take to be an author? Mak skillfully claims a number of qualities that an author should have, but first step he suggests to read, read and read. “Read any master pieces you can find.” He recalls, “When I was little, I even read the bread wrapping… Or any paper I found on the street.” It is also a combination of imagination — ability to imagine things from different angles and perspectives. He says, “Even when a leaf drops from the tree, the author can imagine what will go from there, and make up a story right there and then.”
Only the support from readers and the perspiration of the writers themselves can guarantee the longevity of Khmer-literature. It concerns the authors, sometimes, that they are not in the mood to write. Mak says, “When I’m not in the mood to write, or simply say I’m lazy, I have my personal quote to alert myself: ‘Never a day without a line.” Recently, Suong Mak’s latest master piece ‘Meteorite’ is reported to be published into paperback in the near future.
Article by: Vann ChanveteyE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: http://mediagirlism.wordpress.com
Photo from: Suong Mak